The Chaos Whisperer

Helping you tame the Chaos at Home & Work


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How To Set Boundaries

It’s a perilous quest to try and find balance between one’s work and one’s play, and many a brave soul have been lost to the beast of burning the candle at both ends.

If you can relate to this dilemma, then they key to your salvation is to learn how to set boundaries. Not all boundaries are created equal, and it can be unhealthy to have too many, but I do believe that a few are necessary to effectively manage your time and maintain order in your work-life balance.

In order to determine what those boundaries are that best suit YOU and your needs, I need you to answer this question first:

Which type of person are you – someone who works to live, or someone who lives to work?

If you work to live, then you believe your work is more a means to giving you the freedom and means to live the life you want to live. In this case, you will want to set boundaries that enable you to leave work completely behind when you finish for the day – a stronger separation of work and life.

If you live to work, then you believe your work is your greatest passion and purpose in life, and the most valuable use of your time and energy. In your case then, you will want to focus on setting boundaries that give you room to breathe and stay healthy, and help you keep your larger goals in mind even while you are happily getting lost in the weeds.

Now let me ask you another question, and this one may be harder to answer:

What are your Must Have’s?

What are the key things in your life that you absolutely cannot do without? What are your core principals, ideals, values that you want your life to stand for? (Avoid any short term visions or choices.)

To give you an idea, here are some of mine:

  1. I must have autonomy and flexibility in my schedule.
  2. I must have a sense of adventure and thrill of the unknown.
  3. I must have mutual respect, trust and loyalty in all my relationships.
  4. I must have some element of storytelling and performance I can share with others.
  5. I must have constant challenges that pushes my physical, mental and emotional limits.

Once you know these, you can start to get a sense of what boundaries you’ll need to set in order to protect these Must Have’s and give yourself room to enjoy them.

For example, I’ve realized that since I am a person who lives to work, and since I’m self-employed (which pretty much means I work all the time), I need to force myself to take 1 day off a week for endeavors other than my main work (such as writing this blog!). I also decided to give myself evenings off, so I can relax and eat dinner with my boyfriend instead of with my computer. And because I want to have a sense of adventure, and constantly push my limits, I have also committed to cutting out time for exercise and fun activities every other day.

So now you tell me – what are the boundaries you need to set in order to keep your sanity and lifestyle in check?

Once you know these, the final step is making sure you stick to them. Because if you’re anything like me, and a crazy workaholic live-to-work addict, you will need help doing this! And in my own journey, I found the following two tools to be extremely useful:

1. Google Calendar

I mean literally block off sections on your calendar for the time you decided to set aside for your personal Must Have’s, or non-work activities. I have scheduled weekly recurring blocks of time on my Calendar for the 1 day/week I want to work on other projects, as well as the times I’ve committed to working out and exercising.

2. Your Friends

This is the other extremely powerful tool that can help hold you accountable to your chosen boundaries. How about telling your closest trusted friends what your boundaries are so they can remind you of them when you start to slip. Putting your boundaries out there publicly will not only help you feel more committed and likely to follow them, but it can also help your friends and loved ones better understand you and help you where you need it most. I would include family in this category as well, but in my experience, I’ve found friends more reliable at being brutally honest with me about my boundaries – after all, they aren’t related to you, so they don’t HAVE to love you just the way you are.

So set smart boundaries, and then find people who are willing to challenge you to be a better person… and kid, you’ll go far.

The sky’s the limit… so long as it’s within your boundaries of course. 🙂